TAMPA — One of the hottest couples on the planet landed at the Great Futures Breakfast and supporters of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay ate it up.
The presence of club alumni Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez, the former New York Yankee, and actor/singer/dancer Jennifer Lopez, his girlfriend of nearly two years, helped raise more than $1 million for the organization serving 19,000 kids.
“Two-thirds (of these kids) being raised by single parents and three-quarters living at or below the poverty line,” said Yankees principal owner and managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, board chairman emeritus.
It was Steinbrenner’s request that drew Rodriguez to the annual fundraiser.
“Hal, my boss, doesn’t ask for favors, but when he does, I show up,” Rodriguez said, beginning his four-minute talk with a salute to his mentor and former coach, Lou Piniella.
Over muffins, fruit, coffee and yogurt, the baseball legend spoke to 750 community leaders gathered at Amalie Arena early Tuesday morning. Since retiring in 2016, Rodriguez has powered into real estate, automobiles, fitness, entertainment, public speaking and philanthropy.
“It’s a straight line from the club to where I am today,” Rodriguez said. He was 9 when his single mother sent him to a Boys and Girls Club in Miami-Dade.
“They were all strange faces but it felt like home…it felt like hope,” he recalled, proudly noting that 20 other major leaguers came out of that unit.
The superstars instill the values they absorbed in their own families.
“Jennifer and I teach our four children health, nutrition, community service and the importance of academics,” Rodriguez said, with a nod to Lopez, an alum of the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club in New York City and a national board member. Lopez was only heard speaking as the narrator on a Great Futures video, not during the program or a press conference afterwards. She did pose for a few photos.
“If I knew JLo looked this good at 7:30 a.m. I’d have stepped up my game,” said Lisa DeBartolo, breakfast co-chair for the second year. Philanthropist Bob Gries served as her co-chairman.
“Boys & Girls Clubs truly transform the community,” added Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, DeBartolo’s brother-in-law. “It’s a proven model, one of the biggest crimefighting tools we have.”
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